UCL School of Slavonic and East European Studies (SSEES)


PROJECT 89: From the Trabant to Tank Man

Thirty years ago in Eastern Europe, a chain of revolutionary events changed the face of the world: demonstrations on the streets, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the end of Communist-party rule, and, finally, the break-up of the Soviet Union.

How are we to understand these events?  As the result of economic collapse?  As the result of the decisions of an exhausted political leadership, or of ordinary people demanding democracy? 

In our final-year course on 1989, as students of BA History Politics and Economics, we have taken a different path.  In our multi-media group projects, we have explored the fate of particular “objects”, including:

  • the Trabant motor-car,
  • the image of “Tank Man”, lone demonstrator on Tiananmen Square;
  • the reburied corpse of Hungarian leader, Imre Nagy
  • the East German National Football Team

Looking at these “objects” illuminates 1989 and its economic, political and cultural meaning. The below showcases some of the themes and projects that have been explored by HPE students. 

Imre Nagy

The Re(re)burial of Imre Nagy

Imre Nagy was a Hungarian politician who became leader of the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 against the Soviet-backed government, for which he was executed two years later.


The Trabant

A journey into the history of one of 1989's most notorious symbols: the "Zwickau racing cardboard", also known as the Trabant.

Udo Grashoff

1989 in the GDR

An interview with Dr Udo Grashoff, a participant of the 1989 revolution in the German Democratic Republic.

black market

Black Market

A look at the socio-economic implications of illegal trade in cigarettes and alcohol in the USSR.

Berlin Wall

Berlin Wall and German Football Leagues

Long-term political, cultural, economic and social effects of the fall of the Berlin wall on the unified German football leagues.


Tank Man

Tank Man is the nickname of an unidentified man who stood in front of a column of tanks on June 5, 1989, the morning after the Chinese military had suppressed the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989 by force.